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College Basketball: Iowa’s Garza voted Big Ten Player of the Year

Luka Garza

IOWA CITY – University of Iowa standout center Luka Garza has been voted the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year by the league head coaches and selected media panel, the Big Ten Conference announced on Monday.

Garza was also a unanimous first-team selection by both the media and coaches. Sophomore Joe Wieskamp was a third-team all-conference honoree, while CJ Fredrick was selected to the five-player All-Freshman Team. Redshirt sophomore Connor McCaffery is the recipient of Iowa’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Sportsmanship Award.

Garza becomes the first Hawkeye to earn the prestigious honor since the award was introduced by the Big Ten Conference in 1985. He is the fourth Hawkeye in program history and first since 1952 to be named, essentially, Big Ten MVP. Murray Wier (1948), Chuck Darling (1952), and Sam Williams (1968) were previous recipients of the Big Ten/Chicago Tribune MVP Award, which was presented prior to 1985.

Head Coach Fran McCaffery has coached a first-team All-Big Ten honoree five of the last seven seasons, the most over a seven-year span since 1956-62. Garza joins Devyn Marble (2014), Aaron White (2015), Jarrod Uthoff (2016), and Peter Jok (2017) as first team selections.

Garza is a finalist for five national awards: Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson Trophy, Wooden Award, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, and the Lute Olson Award.

Garza (6-foot-11, 260 pounds) ranks second nationally with 12 20-point/10-rebound performances, 20-point games (25) and field goals made (287); third in points per 40 minutes played (29.9), fifth in scoring (23.9), 10th in 30-point games (5), 19th in double-doubles (15) and offensive rebounds per game (3.58), and 34th in rebounding (9.8). His 15 double-doubles are third most in a single-season by a Hawkeye in three decades and the most since 2002 (Reggie Evans, 18). Garza is averaging 26.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in 12 games against AP ranked opponents, including recording 11 straight 20-point performances.

Garza finished the 20-game conference schedule averaging 26.2 points per game to become Iowa’s first scoring leader in Big Ten games only since Adam Haluska (21.3 ppg) in 2007. Garza is the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 (31.1 ppg).

Garza is Iowa’s single-season scoring record holder with 740 points, breaking the program’s 50-year old record previously set by John Johnson in 1970. Garza has scored 20 points or more in a school-record 16 straight Big Ten games, the longest streak by any player in the Big Ten since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson 16 in 1987. He is the fourth player nationally since 2007 to amass 700+ points, 300+ rebounds, 50+ blocks, and 35+ 3-pointers in a season (Frank Kaminsky, 2015; Michael Beasley, 2008; Kevin Durant, 2007).

Garza has scored 25 points or more 13 times this season, including the last three contests. The native of Washington, D.C., is the only Big Ten player to register seven 25-point/10-rebound performances in the same season in more than 17 years. He has produced the two highest point totals in a game by a Big Ten player this season (44 at Michigan; 38 at Indiana).

The two best Big Ten basketball players in 2020 reside in Iowa City: Garza (Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year) and Kathleen Doyle (Big Ten Women’s Basketball Player of the Year).

Wieskamp (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) ranks second on the team in points per game (14.0) and rebounds (6.1), and is tied for 13th in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made per contest (1.7). The native of Muscatine, Iowa, ranks first in the Big Ten in free throw accuracy (.856) and has made his last 22 straight free throw attempts dating back to Feb. 13. One of 10 finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, Wieskamp has posted three double-doubles, led the team in steals 10 times, and scored 15 points or more 13 times this season. Wieskamp posted career highs this season in scoring (30 vs. Nebraska), rebounds (11 vs. Maryland), assists (4 vs. Rutgers), blocked shots (2 vs. Minnesota), and free throws made (9 vs. Michigan).

Fredrick (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) is the ninth Hawkeye to be voted to the five-player All-Freshman Team since the honor was first introduced in 2003. Fredrick, a Cincinnati native, is the seventh rookie to be recognized on the All-Freshman Team under Fran McCaffery and the fourth in four years (Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook in 2017; Joe Wieskamp in 2019).

Despite missing a handful of games due to injury, Fredrick ranked third on the team in scoring (10.2 ppg) and third in assists (2.78 apg), and first among all Big Ten players in 3-point accuracy (.461, 47-of-102) and 10th in 3-pointers made per game (1.9). His 3-point field goal percentage currently ranks first in Iowa’s record books for an Iowa freshman in a single-season, while his 47 triples is tied for fourth most. The redshirt freshman was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Jan. 20, after matching a season high with 21 points in a home win over No. 19 Michigan. He was voted to the Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament Team after averaging 13 points per game on 60 percent shooting (9-of-15) and 3.5 assists per game against No. 12 Texas Tech and San Diego State.

McCaffery, a student-athlete in both basketball and baseball, leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.59). He is the only player in the country with more than 120 assists and fewer than 30 turnovers, as well as the only player nationally to average at least six points, four rebounds, four assists, and less than one turnover per game. The Iowa City native has posted 48 assists and only seven turnovers over the last 10 games (6.85 ratio). He averages 6.2 points per game, a team-best 4.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.1 steals. McCaffery also excels in the classroom as a finance major, being voted to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team last month.

Joining Garza on the first team, by both coaches and media, were Lamar Stevens (Penn State), Cassius Winston (Michigan State), and Jalen Smith (Maryland); Maryland’s Anthony Cowan was a first team honoree by the coaches, while Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois was a first team selection by the media. Maryland’s Aaron Wiggins was named Sixth Man of the Year by the coaches. The All-Defensive Team consisted of Jalen Smith of Maryland, Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu, Nojel Eastern of Purdue, Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler, and Xavier Tillman of Michigan State.

Both the media and coaches named Greg Gard of Wisconsin as Coach of the Year. The coaches selected Michigan State center Xavier Tillman as Defensive Player of the Year. Both groups named Kofi Cockburn of Illinois as Freshman of the Year.

No. 18 Iowa (20-11, 11-9) will open Big Ten Tournament play on Thursday against Minnesota/Northwestern. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 1:30 p.m. (CT) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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